To one degree or another, all three of the Vikings' first-round picks that signed their rookie contracts on Thursday will have to wait until Monday to take the "next step" in their progression.
That's when the Vikings are allowed to put on pads, which will be the next in a long line of "firsts" for rookies. They've already gone through the 10 organized team activities, a fancy name for offseason practices, and the three days of minicamp in June. But Monday will mark the first time they are in pads while facing NFL-level competition.
"You know with your O-line and D-line, you really want to see those guys work in pads because what we did up to this point in the offseason program, you can develop some bad habits and bad techniques," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We need to see them in pads to really get a fair evaluation. But you also want to see the rookies run around and move around in pads and see how they contact or handle contact as well."
Sharrif Floyd, the Vikings' top draft pick at No. 23 overall, is one of those linemen. Initially, he is expected to rotate behind veteran Kevin Williams at the under tackle position. The first few days of training camp will feature a new setting, but the teammates, coaches and practice routine will be largely the same as Floyd experienced at minicamp.
"The technique of the defensive line, how (defensive line coach Brendan) Daly teaches it, I just picked up on that really well in minicamp so now I'm just looking to capitalize off that," Floyd said.
Floyd carries a quiet confidence with him. Not much seems to bother him or intimidate him.
"I don't think I have any challenges ahead of me. I'm here to play hard so that's all I'm focused on is playing hard and doing the best that I can and everything else will take care of itself," he said.
Xavier Rhodes, the cornerback who was selected No. 25 overall, said he isn't about to make any predictions about what his role will be or how he will look once the pads are incorporated into practice.
"I'm just coming in here to work hard and get better. I'm not expecting to start or anything. I'm just coming here to get better and help the team in any means necessary. Corner, special teams, anywhere," Rhodes said. "If (a starting role) happens, I'll have to be ready. If they put me in that situation to start, I have to man up and just play my role and do my job."
The spring and summer practices got Rhodes initiated into the speed of the NFL and he believes training camp will further help him acclimate to the increased tempo in the pros. But, like Floyd, Rhodes has a self-assuredness about him.
"I wouldn't say I'm nervous. I'm ready," he said. "I just want to go out and play some football."
That will start, to a degree, Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m., when the team's first full practice begins. But because of the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the Vikings have to be in camp three days before they can wear pads. The first padded session will take place Monday afternoon.
Rhodes still has to experience that part of his rookie progression, but he has already gotten plenty of advice and tips from the receivers he covered in OTAs and minicamp and his fellow defensive backs.
"All the receivers put me to work. They watched film of me, like I watched film on them. They picked at my weakness and I picked at theirs," he said. "Every day I learn from them. They learn from us to try to get better. When you go against big receivers, fast receivers, you learn from them. And they learn from me going against a big corner."
One of those "big receivers" is another rookie first-round pick, Cordarrelle Patterson, who, like Floyd and Rhodes, signed his contract Thursday morning before heading to Mankato for his first NFL training camp.
"He's an explosive player. Everything about him is fast," Rhodes said. "Once he gets the ball in his hands, it's gone. I can tell you that. Once he has a step or two in front of you, there's no catching him."
Patterson played only one season at college football's highest level, the Football Bowl Subdivision, with the Tennessee Volunteers. He has heard the criticisms that he is raw in his route-running. He might even admit it, but he's not letting the critics affect his approach.
"You can't go off what nobody says. People judge me every day, saying I'm this and that, but I just live on what I know I can do," he said. "I'm getting better every day. I have great guys like Greg (Jennings), all those guys. I know they're going to help me get to where I need to be."
As far as Floyd is concerned, the rookies need to be right where they are – ready to start training camp.
"It's always football time for me," he said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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